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About Me

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I have been interested in nature for most of my life but since I retired I spend as much time as I can exploring the nature reserves and wildlife hotspots of my adopted home, Dorset in southern England. Whilst out I record what I see and take snaps where I can (I am no photographer!) and that forms the basis of my Nature of Dorset website. When I find something new I like to research it and write about it in my nature notes, it is how I learn and hopefully you might find my notes helpful as well!

This website is for the people of Dorset interested in wildlife and for people from elsewhere interested in the wildlife of Dorset!

31 August, 2016

Clustered Bellflower: the Danes blood



Bellflowers are lovely plants with large blue flowers. There are several members of the family and many are garden escapes as their striking flowers have made them popular with gardeners. In Dorset we have two wild species, both native to the British Isles, nettle-leaved bellflower and this one, the clustered bellfower (Campanula glomerata). The clustered bellflower is a plant of chalk grasslands flowering in June and, as it name implies, the flowers are clustered around the top of the stem.
Looking at the flowers it is not hard to how they get their name, even their scientific name reflects the Latin for bell, campanula. That said, there are other flowers in the family that do not have bell shaped flowers but things are rarely straight forward with flora and its identification. 
This is also known as Dane's blood but I have no idea why, are Dane's blue blooded? There are various cultivated varieties of this flower available from garden centres if you particularly like them but please try to ensure they stay within the confines of your garden boundary!
Clustered Bellflower: the Danes blood

30 August, 2016

Cowslip: herb Peter



There must be 101 reasons to visit Durlston Country Park near Swanage in May and this is certainly one of them. In the flower meadows at the top of the cliffs there are countless numbers of cowslips (Primula veris). The same is true of the neighbouring Dorset Wildlife Trust reserve of Townsend.
Cowslips were once very common. These days they are still found throughout the county in meadows and on grassland, occasionally even in the middle of roundabouts! They are closely related to the primrose, they are both Primulas and that is where part of the problem lies, Many gardens have cultivated Primula species, especially Polyanthus. Insects visit these and then go on to the the wild cowslip causing hybridisation; gradually the truly natural wild species will die out. The same is happening to Bluebells.
The cowslip has various other country names including herb Peter! The origin of the name cowslip is unclear but may derive from the fact that it grows well in meadows well manured by cow dung or cow slips. 
Cowslip: herb Peter

29 August, 2016

Hoverfly: Xylota sylvarum



Whilst sharing several anatomical features that enable them to be grouped together as a family, within the group hoverflies can be very diverse in appearance. They come in various colourations, sizes and shapes. Some appear to imitate bees, others wasps and others imitate noting at all! Telling some species appart requires taking a specimen for microscopic examination.
I have to say that this species, Xylota sylvarum, was unlike any other I have seen and at first it never occuered to me it was a hoverfly until rose from the log it was resting on, briefly hovered and then returned to its resting place. It was with the aid of a photograph that I was able to then identify it. It is quite a large species and looks a little like a bee without actually looking like a bee! 
It is a woodland species that does, indeed, rest on logs but it feeds on the flowers of white umbelifer flowers such as hogweed and hemlock water-dropwort. At its peak in June and July it is widespread across much of southern England.
Hoverfly: Xylota sylvarum

28 August, 2016

Greater Sea-spurrey: the star of the marsh



If you choose to rummage around on the vegetation of the salt marshes amongst the glasswort, sea purslane, sea-lavender and so on you may encounter this lovely little star-shaped flower, the greater sea-spurrey (Spergularia media). Although carrying the label 'greater' sea-spurrey it is a small flower, usually white but it can also be pale bluish/pink.
As well as a common flower of the coastal marshes, because it loves salty conditions it can also be found inland along the side of roads that are frequently salted in the winter months.
This species is also known as the greater sand-spurrey in some books which can be confusing. There is a lesser sea-spurrey which is less common but the flowers of that are always pink. Both greater and lesser are members of the campion or pink family.
Greater Sea-spurrey: the star of the marsh

27 August, 2016

Agaricus silvicola: the wood mushroom

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The wood mushroom (Agaricus silvicola) is the woodland equivalent of the more familiar field mushroom! Rather than appearing on grassland the wood mushroom lives up to its name and can be found in both deciduous and coniferous woodlands; it has a particular liking for beech trees however. It has a creamy cap that can tinge yellow and has a scent reminiscent of aniseed.  It is an autumn species that tends to occur on open soil rather than amongst leaf litter so look for it on banks and sloping ground free of lying leaves. It usually occurs in small groups but it can also appear in troops as well. 
This is a widespread species but not that common. It can be found in the autumn and is edible; but is best avoided in case of confusion with some of the similar and deadly amanita species.
Agaricus silvicola: the wood mushroom

26 August, 2016

Cucullia verbasci: the mullein moth

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The mullein moth (Cucullia verbasci) is more often seen as a caterpillar than an adult flying moth. It can found on the leaves of verbascum plants, especially great mullein, and less frequently on common and water figwort.  It is quite common to see large hole in mullein leaves and when you take a closer look you find these attractively marked caterpillars. 
Anywhere these plants thrive then so do the mullein moth larvae. The verbascum family of flowers tend to grow in waste places and scrubby areas, often where there is open ground and little competition from more aggressive species. Great mullein is not that common in Dorset so, not surprisingly then, this moth is not that common here either.
The adult flies in April and May but I have never seen it as it is that it is one of the few species that does not seem to be attracted to light and therefore a moth trap is of little interest to them. The caterpillars emerge in late June and may be found until mid-August at which point they pupate and over winter in this state ready to emerge in the spring. However, they can stay a pupa for up to four years before emerging which is quite remarkable.
Cucullia verbasci: the mullein moth

25 August, 2016

Dropwort: a rose by any other name

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Whilst this could appear to be a close up picture of meadowsweet it is actually a totally different species; dropwort (Filipendula vulgaris). As dropwort and meadowsweet look so alike this is a case of using other criteria to make an identification. Whilst meadowsweet is a plant of wet (or at least damp) ground dropwort thrives on dry chalk grassland. They are such similar plants but they have totally different requirements in terms of habitat.  If you want to be totally sure which of the two species you have found then look at the leaves, they are very different. Meadowsweet has bold rose-like leaves whereas those of dropwort are much more akin to ferns.
Surprisingly, perhaps, It is a member of the rose family. It is locally common but not widespread in Dorset and is always a nice find in June through to August.
 
Wikipedia tells us that dropwort flowers have been used in Austrian herbal medicine as a cure for rheumatism, gout, infections and fever. It also tells us that the name dropwort comes from the tubers that hang like drops from the root.
Dropwort: a rose by any other name

24 August, 2016

Ploughmans spikenard: blister creme?

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Ploughman's spikenard (Inula conyzae) is plant of the downlands that is easily overlooked, not because it is small, because it isn't, but because it looks a bit like a ragwort that has gone over. It grows on calcareous soils on wasteland, grassland and scrub and so will be found on the Purbeck Ridge and along the cliffs where the earth is, perhaps, a bit bare. 
It has a strange name and I have no idea where it comes from, there is very little information elsewhere on the web about this flower. It is a bit prickly, or spiky, and it is out in the late summer and early autumn when traditionally the fields would have been ploughed after the harvest so perhaps ploughman's spikenard is something to do with the spiky plant that ploughmen tread on? It seems nard was an ointment made from a Himalayan flower so was probably quite exclusive and expensive. Maybe a cheap form of nard was made from this plant and ploughmen used it treat blisters on their hands? Any further ideas are welcome!
 
It is a member of the daisy family and the nondescript flower heads turn into clusters of seeds heads, much like groundsel.
Ploughmans spikenard: blister creme?

23 August, 2016

Gipsywort: a G and T



Gipsywort (Lycopus europaeus) is a member of the labiate family of plants which also include mints and deadnettles. The square stem, pointed nettle shaped leaves and small tubular flowers in whorls are so typical of this family.
Gipsywort loves damp ground and is usually found on stream banks, in drainage ditches and wet 'fen' areas from June through to September and is common in areas of Wareham Common.
It is another plant with folklore connections. Supposedly a remedy for just about every ailment that can beset us! It is also used as a die and the name comes from the belief that Romany people died their skin with it although that story remains totally unsubstantiated as far as I can ascertain. More likely it was used to die clothes. Apparently it smells like gin and tonic when crushed! 
Gipsywort: a G and T

22 August, 2016

Ptychoptera contaminata: a fungus gnat



We tend to think of gnats as being tiny, biting insects but actually, the family they belong to includes much larger, non-biting species such as crane flies and fungus gnats. This fungus gnat (Ptychoptera contaminata) is probably the most common of the fifty or so species of fungus gnat found in Britain.
One of seven fold winged fungus gnat species this one seems to have been injured as one of its wings is folded back along its body whist the other is sticking out to the side. The pattern of black dots on the wings is the best way to tell species apart.
They are called fungus gnats because their larvae, as opposed to the adults which are found in waterside vegetation, are found on fungi where some species feed on the fruiting body and spores whereas other species feed on other tiny insects that visit the fungus to eat.
Ptychoptera contaminata: a fungus gnat

Sneezewort: bless you bless you all fall down

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Those of you who know the familiar flower yarrow might well think that that is what this is, but it's not. It sneezewort (Achillea ptarmica); an Achillea like yarrow but a smaller plant with less feathery leaves.
July and August, riversides and wet meadows are good places to look for flowers a bit out of the ordinary and that is where you find sneezewort. It is described as being 'local' and so where it occurs it is usually quite common but finding places where it occurs is a bit more difficult. Certainly, the lower reaches of the River Frome is one place. It has a preference for acid soil rather than chalk so it is unlikely to be found further up stream in the chalk areas where our streams tend to originate.
I have no idea why it is called sneezewort but I suspect it has connections to the Great Plague of 1665! It has a number of other common names too. The leaves can be cooked and eaten and they are also used to extract an essential oil used in herbal medicine. The leaves can be used as an insect repellent, quite a versatile plant!
Sneezewort: bless you bless you all fall down

20 August, 2016

Hypholoma fasciculare: the sulphur tuft fungus

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The sulphur tuft fungus (Hypholoma fasciculare) must be a familair sight to anyone walking in the woods in autumn. It has to be one of our most common fungi as it thrives on tree stumps. It grows in dense tufts or clumps and it is visible all year round. The yellowish cap can vary in size from a little as 2cm up to nearly 6cm and they start out convex in shape, then flatten out and eventully have a sort of Dutchman's cap appearance so plenty of variety to confuse the unwary like me!
Certainly not edible and best left alone. 
Hypholoma fasciculare: the sulphur tuft fungus

19 August, 2016

Euclidia glyphica: the burnet companion



The burnet companion (Euclidia glyphica) is one of those moths that defy the popular belief that butterflies fly by day and moths by night; it adores the sunshine of May and June (if there is any!). It is easily mistaken for a butterfly, especially something like the dingy skipper, but they display clear orange patches on the under-wings, especially in flight but also, sometimes, at rest.
This is quite a common species on downland in southern England and Dorset is a good place to see them. They also inhabit open woodland rides and clearings as well as railway cuttings, even damp meadows but downland is by far the best place for them.
I would like to know how it gets its name but I have yet to find out. It does favour the same habitat as other day flying moths, the five and six spot burnets, and so it may this, they are the burnet moths companions.
Euclidia glyphica: the burnet companion

18 August, 2016

Common Toadeflax: the snap-dragon

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I expect most of us are familiar with snap-dragons as we called them when I was a child. If you press the sides of the flower near the base the mouth opens! Common toadflax (Linaria vulgaris) is the natural version of the antirrhinum we used to grow in the garden. 
As the name implies, it is fairly common and thrives on calcareous soils and hence does well in parts of Dorset. It flowers from July right through until October and you can find in waste areas, on grassland, in hedgerows, along roadside verges and railway tracks, anywhere where the competition from other plants is not too great. 
I have also heard this called Tom Thumb and eggs and bacon but I think both of these country names really apply to bird's-foot trefoil. There are numerous other colloquial names for it and Wikipedia has quite a long list if you are really interested! It is also an extensively used plant in herbal medicine curing alomost as many ailments as it has names ...
 
Common toadflax is a lovely flower; it is well worth taking a closer look if you find it.
Common Toadeflax: the snap-dragon

17 August, 2016

Water Mint: pick me up



When walking by a pond or a slow moving river you will almost certainly encounter water mint (Mentha aquatica). It grows anywhere there is fresh water, indeed, anywhere the ground is usually damp. It is very common in Dorset where its preferred habitat exists flowering from July right through until October.
It is easy to identify this species as being mint, just take a leaf and have a sniff, all that is missing is the roast lamb! Water mint has this purple tinged green in the leaves like many of the labiate (or mint) family. The flowers are pale mauve and are formed around the top of the stem.
The leaves of water mint can be dried and used to make a herbal tea while the plant contains a chemical known for its beneficial properties in the treatment of deprerssion. So, if you are feeling down why not have a nice cuppa?
Water Mint: pick me up

16 August, 2016

Indian Balsam: the policemans helmet



Indian balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) is a plant introduced from the Himalayas into water gardens and has escaped in to the outside world. It is now widespread on river banks around the county especially the Stour and the Frome. Sadly this is another unwelcome arrival from over seas and another case of us paying for the Victorian habit of collecting 'nice things' from the colonies and bringing them home to adorn our gardens.
This plant is something of a pest as it is free growing, spreading rapidly and becoming dominant at the expense of other natural species. It is not even very good for insects or as a food for any other living thing so it is a flower we could well do without but virtually impossible to eradicate. We put more effort into pulling ragwort which is far more beneficial, than we do in to controlling this plant.
What the plant does have in its favour is these lovely large pink flowers that give the plant its nick-name, policeman's helmet. Ever see a policeman with a pink helmet?
Indian Balsam: the policemans helmet

15 August, 2016

Nephrotoma flavipalpis: the blonde palped cranefly



Nephrotoma flavipalpis is a fairly common species of crane fly found in damp woodlands and hedgerows which probably explains why I found on a hedgerow next to drainage channel on Wareham Common.  It is a little unusual in appearance as it rests with its wings back along its body whereas one associates crane flies with a resting posture with wings outstretched to the side, a bit like a dragonfly.
The head region is light in colour and the scientific name of flavipalpus is derived from this. Flavia means blonde or pale in colour and palps are a pair of elongated appendages found near the mouth which have various functions which include sensation, locomotion and feeding (thanks for that Wikipedia!). Flavipalpus, then, gives us blonde palps which you may just be able to discern from my photograph.
Nephrotoma flavipalpis: the blonde palped cranefly

14 August, 2016

Parsley Water-dropwort: are you shore



In amongst the cord grass on the mudflats and coastal marshes of Dorset's natural harbours you can occasionally encounter a flower that looks a bit like cow parsley. It is another of those hard to identify members of the carrot family with umbrella shaped clusters of flowers. The fact it is growing on salt marsh, however, can lead you to a pretty positive identification straight away, parsley water-dropwort (Oenanthe lachenalii) is almost certainly the only one that thrives in such habitat.
Being restricted in its preference for habitat this is not a common plant in the United Kingdom but around Poole Harbour one encounters it quite frequently from June until September. It once occurred on inland fens and marshes but loss of that sort of habitat means this flower is now generally confined to coastal mudflats.
Parsley Water-dropwort: are you shore

13 August, 2016

Panaeolus papilionaceus:the petticoat mottlegill



They may not be everyone's cup of tea but fungi really are an interesting aspect of nature. Fungi serve a vital role in breaking down waste and returning materials to the soil where they can be re-used. Often this waste it feeds on is dead wood  but not always. The petticoat mottlegill (Panaeolus papilionaceus) specialises in recycling animal dung.
This fungus has a distinct life cycle (which it shares with some other fungi species) where it thrives in animal dung. From the mycelium that performs the breaking down function it produces the fruiting bodies (the cap that we see) and the spores from the cap fall on to the ground amongst the grass. Animals come along grazing and eat the spores along with the grass, the spores pass through the gut and are ejected inside fresh dung where the fungus starts to break it down! Incredible when you think that once a cow-pat, for example, has been totally broken down by the fungus, the fungus will die because it has nothing left to consume so it is dependant on a new cow-pat being generated to continue its survival through its spores. Without the fungus (and other creatures of course) there would be heaps of dung so the fungus is essential in maintaining an equilibrium. However, it cannot totally rid us of dung as it needs more to survive.
That is the wonder of nature.
Panaeolus papilionaceus:the petticoat mottlegill

12 August, 2016

Orthosia gothica: the Hebrew character moth

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In April and May there are not a lot of moths about but the most common by far is the Hebrew character (Orthosia gothica). It is not hard to see why it bears that name; that distinctive mark on the wings is quite diagnostic and recalls a form of hieroglyphics! . 
The Hebrew character is a resident moth species as opposed to migratory. It overwinters as a pupa and hatches into an adult in early spring. It can be flying as early as March and then on in to May.  It is single brooded and the larvae hatch and are active on a wide variety of trees during May and June before pupating. The adult moth is particularly fond of sallow blossom.
Orthosia gothica: the Hebrew character moth

11 August, 2016

Red Squirrel: fortress Brownsea



Everyone must surely know the sorry tale of the decline of our native red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris). Once a common species of our woodlands and a favourite character in various children's stories, notably Squirrel Nutkin of the Beatrix Potter books, the poor red squirrel was driven out by the importation of the American grey squirrel to Woburn Park in the late 19th century from where it rapidly spread to virtually all of lowland Britain.
The red squirrel still survives in some numbers in remote areas such as the Highlands of Scotland and some parts of the Lake District but it also thrives on some of the islands around Britain including Anglesea, the Isle of Wight and, of course, Dorset's own Brownsea Island. Extreme security measures are in place on Brownsea to monitor the reds and to stop greys arriving; it has been made something of an island fortress with detailed plans in place to deal with any grey threat that may arise.
If you want to see red squirrels then Brownsea is a good place for them and any visit there is usually rewarded with a sighting or two. They are most frequent in spring and autumn but can be seen pretty much all year round. If you go to Brownsea just stroll around until you find a group of people and it is a pretty good bet they have gathered to look at one of the islands two hundred or so reds.
Red Squirrel: fortress Brownsea

10 August, 2016

Stoat: the hole in the wall gang



I may not take the best wildlife photographs but I like to feel that the snaps I take reflect how things are for the average enthusiastic nature watcher! This is a picture of a stoat (Mustela erminea); yes, really! It is the best I have been able to come with in some forty or so years of trying and that is because this is about as good a view of a stoat as I have ever had.
Actually, although not exactly rare, one rarely sees a stoat down here in Dorset. They are alert, active little creatures that always seem to be on the move, going somewhere, doing something. They are nervous and shun the possibility of human confrontation but are extremely aggressive towards rabbits and catching them for lunch. Despite this, they are endearing creatures with plenty of character. They often live in and around stone walls where there are plenty of hole to retreat to in an emergency.
Some people wonder what the difference is between a stoat and a weasel. I was told the answer to that some years ago; a weasel is weasely identified whereas a stoat is stoatally different. 
Stoat: the hole in the wall gang

09 August, 2016

Bucks-horn Plantain: its in the bag



I suppose some plants are just boring! No nice flowers, no impressive foliage, nothing. Well, to my mind, plantains fall into the boring category and are not much to look at. Indeed, it would be easy to think that they are not actually flowers at all. 
The buck's-horn plantain (Plantago coronopus) is very much a part of typical seaside vegetation and is common near our coasts on grassy areas, sandy and rocky, close to the sea. Although not much to look at it is quite distinctive with the 'flower' heads on stems that come out from the centre base of the plant in a curve upwards to form a sort of crown (coronpus?). It is the leaves of the plant that give rise to 'buck's horn' as they are the shape of deer antlers.
It may not be much to look at but it is grown commercially as a vegetable called minutina or erba stella and it is sometimes included in bags of salad mix sold in supermarkets as the leaves have a sweet, nutty flavour.  
Bucks-horn Plantain: its in the bag

08 August, 2016

Pollenia rudis: the cluster fly



Although there is a family of flies known as house-flies it is actually the family of blow flies that can be the biggest nuisance to human kind. Blow flies include the common bluebottle and greenbottle with which most people are familiar but these is also the cluster fly (Pollenia rudis) that falls in to this category.
Unlike some of its cousins that lay eggs in carrion (and that includes unprotected meat in our homes) the cluster fly actually predates earthworms. However, in autumn they 'cluster' together to find shelter for the winter and that can be in our houses. The arrival of a cluster of cluster flies is not to be welcomed! they can be a considerable nuisance rather than a danger to health. They tend to inhabit woodland in summer where they breed so it tends to be houses near woodland most at risk of an autumn visitation.
Identified not only the the sheer numbers but also by the chequered abdomen and golden, furry thorax. 
Pollenia rudis: the cluster fly

07 August, 2016

Sea Mayweed: the sea chamomile



Sea mayweed (Tripleurospermum maritum) is a classic daisy in appearance. It is much larger then the lawn daisy, of course, but it has that yellow centre surrounded by an array of white petals. On the surface, very similar (and closely related) to scentless mayweed which is a very common flower of arable farmland but the fact that this grows near the sea on the upper reaches of the shoreline on sand or pebbles, often at the base of cliffs, that can be a pretty definitive guide to identification without resorting to a hand lens.
Not a common plant, more 'occasional', but you can easily find it at places like Ringstead, West Bexington, Worbrarrow, and Kimmeridge. It is also known as sea chamomile as when you crush the leaves there is a hint of the scent that one gets from its relative, chamomile. It has similar health properties to chamomile too being an effective skin soother and its antioxidant properties help to reduce skin inflammation
Sea Mayweed: the sea chamomile

06 August, 2016

Armillaria mellea: the honey fungus



Honey fungus (Armillaria mellea) is aptly named; it not only has the colour of honey but it has a slightly sticky appearance which makes it look as though it has been smeared with honey.
It always grows in 'clumps' and can be found on tree stumps, buried branches and the dead roots of trees of all kinds. It also produces the common white rot you see on dead wood. This fungus is a deadly parasite in woodlands, plantations and gardens and is certain death to any tree that becomes infected by it. It accounts for the loss of considerable amounts of commercial timber each year and is virtually impossible to eradicate once established. It can wreak havoc in gardens amongst shrubs.
 
It is also known as boot-lace fungus as it has long black cords that spread underground to infect new trees. It is a very common species. The fruiting bodies appear in late summer and early autumn and are edible when young but become toxic with age. Are you going to decide whether they are too old to eat or will you just leave them alone?
Armillaria mellea: the honey fungus

05 August, 2016

Colocasia coryli: the nut tree tussock moth



The nut tree tussock moth (Colocasia coryli) is a moth that I frequently find in my moth trap. It is usual to put egg boxes in the trap for the moths to hide under until released and, being a bit short of egg boxes, I had to use this green one with printing all over it which rather detracts from the beauty of the moth itself! This is an intricately patterned moth with a predominately silver background and with a striking band across the fore wings. It also has a little crest on its head which gives it a rather unique look. 
It has two broods here in the south and so adults are on the wing from as early as April right through until September so it can crop up any almost any time in the summer. It is very much a woodland species and not uncommon in southern England and it helps if you live near to a piece of woodland if you are going to get this in a trap in your garden. 
The larvae feed on beech, hazel, field maple and horndeam hence its affinity to woodland. It over winters as a pupa which accounts for emergence early in the spring.
Colocasia coryli: the nut tree tussock moth

04 August, 2016

Hemp-agrimony the holy rope



Go anywhere where the ground is normally damp in Dorset and you are likely to find hemp-agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum). It will be found along river banks, lake sides, in fens, marshes, wet meadows, damp woodlands; it just needs damp ground.
No relation to agrimony despite the similar name (both English and scientific), hemp-agrimony is a member of the daisy family and has lovely soft padded flower heads which insects adore. It is always worth browsing the flowers of hemp-agrimony to see who is at home! Once the flowers go over then the finches move in to feed on the seed heads. All things considered hemp-agrimony is a top flower! Good to see, good for insects and good for seed eating birds.
Also known as holy rope, goodness knows why but I guess rope used to be made out of hemp, the plant contains chemicals known to cause cancers so best not to collect it and smoke it although despite the name cannabinum I have not found a link to cannabis!
Hemp-agrimony the holy rope

03 August, 2016

Greylag Goose: back to the wild



As with the pheasant it is difficult to discern whether the greylag geese (Anser anser) one sees in Dorset are truly wild birds. The term feral is probably more accurate meaning according to my dictionary of "existing in the wild having once been domesticated". Two things are certainly true; pure bred greylags do come to the British Isles in winter in severe weather but, like some other species, they rarely venture this far south. Secondly, greylags are the ancestors of virtually all forms of domesticated geese.
It seems likely that the Dorset greylags, then, are descended from farmyard birds that have 'gone wild'! Gradually they have returned to their normal state over generations having lost special features bred into a farmyard species. Geese were once very commonly kept on farms and small holdings but not so now so and so plenty of scope scope for them to wander off.
Even feral greylags are not seen that often in Dorset occurring most often on larger expanses of fresh water. Where they do occur they tend to be resident and living in colonies. Poole Park has a population of a couple of dozen for example.
Greylag Goose: back to the wild

02 August, 2016

Sea Kale: the poor mans asparagus



Sea Kale (Crambe maritima) is quite a rare plant nationally but it grows here in Dorset. It is a seashore specialist and has the capacity to grow on both sand and especially, on shingle. As a result this plant is most likely to be encountered along the Fleet, especially towards the top and back of the Chesil beach.
This is a relative of the kale that is grown as a food crop and has large 'cabbage' leaves which are obvious for quite a long period of time but the flowers only come in late June through until August. It is a big, sprawling plant and is a member of the cabbage family, the cruciferae, which is quite obvious when you see it.
Once upon a time it was semi-cultivated. People would go out on to the shore where it was growing and heap up shingle around the growing plant to blanch the shoots which were later harvested and prepared like asparagus. The leaves were also cooked much as cultivated kale is today. Nowadays which practice is, of course, forbidden but sea kale is still available from specialist suppliers from specifically grown crops.
Sea Kale: the poor mans asparagus

01 August, 2016

Dilophus febrilis: the fever fly



Although the resemblance may seem distant the fever fly (Dilophus febrilis) is related to gnats, midges and crane flies. Close examination does show some similarities with other species within this group but one thing is indisputable, it is a fly!
The fever fly is related to the St Mark's fly which also appears in spring and is similar in appearance in many ways but the fever fly is some what smaller being only about 10mm long. The fever fly is certainly most common in late April and throughout May but they can be seen after that well in to August and beyond. Early in their season they are often seen in swarms in woodlands and along hedgerows and this is a good indicator of the species.
The larvae live in soil feeding on leaf litter and rotting vegetation.
The big question is why are they called "fever flies"? Although related to mosquito they do not bite and do not spread diseases and so do not cause fever and nor do they feast on corpses of people who have died from a fever! I can find no explanation in any of my books or on the Internet.
Dilophus febrilis: the fever fly